Simnel cake is a tradition at Easter, and one I had surprisingly never heard of until approximately 3 days ago. However, when I learnt what Simnel cake consists of, I knew it was going to be a big hit. Fruit cake, sandwiched with marzipan, sandwiched with more fruit cake, topped with a toasted marzipan layer. I adapted this recipe from the queen of baking herself, Mary Berry.
275g unsalted butter
275g light brown muscavado sugar
275g self-raising flour
125g glacé cherries
75g mixed peel
zest of 3 lemons
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 + 1/2 tablespoons of apricot jam
1. For this tray bake I used a 22cm x 22cm square cake tin, which I found was enough to feed a small army (cut into 16 cake-enthusiast sized chunks). So it may be important to give the dimensions of your cake tin a thought as to how much of this mix you need to make. It is also useful to know your tin dimensions for when you are attempting to roll out a neat square of marzipan later. Grease the tin with a little butter and line with baking parchment.
2. Wash the glacé cherries well to get rid of all the excess stickiness and dry thoroughly. I left mine to rest on some kitchen towel whilst I got on with the rest of the cake.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Next alternative between adding an egg, with a little flour to prevent curdling, mixing well. Once all the eggs and flour have been added you should be left with a smooth, cake batter.
4. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir well. You can add any other spices that give the warm, sweet spicy flavour. I was considering adding either a hint of cardamon or some caraway seeds, although decided to play it safe as I was baking for the masses.
5. Make sure your cherries are well dried, then chop these into about 1/6s. Add these to the cake mix, along with the mixed peel, raisins, sultanas and lemon zest. Stir well to make sure all the different fruits are well mixed into the cake batter.
6. Preheat the oven to 180•C.
7. Spoon half the cake mix into the lined tin. Roll out 300g of marzipan to a square sized to fit the tin (22x22cm). It might be a little tough to roll, so I sprinkled mine with icing sugar and rolled out between two pieces of baking parchment. Gently peel off and place over the cake mix, stretching out into the corners
8. Spoon the rest of the cake mix on top.
9. Bake for ~90 mins at 150•C. It will start to brown on the top, so after about 45 minutes it might be worth putting a foil hat on it. It is done when nice and firm on the top and an inserted skewer comes out clean, just a little damp.
10. Once baked and cooled slightly, brush the jam over the top of the cake. Roll out the remaining 300g of marzipan to the size of the tin and place over the top of the cake. Score the marzipan gently with a knife in some form of pattern. I chose a slightly odd diamond pattern for mine, but whatever you choose to do will make an attractive top when toasted.
12. Heat the grill to about 150•C. Place the cake under it for about 3 minutes. Keep an eye on it because the sugar in the marzipan means it will burn like nobody’s business. So really do watch it like a hawk. Once it goes a warm golden colour, remove from the tin.
13. Remove from the tin once cool and cut into portion-sized pieced. Sprinkle with icing sugar.